Karriem Riggins: The Intersection of Hip Hop & Jazz


From early on, it seemed that Karriem Riggins was destined for greatness. Playing instruments in the studio with his father Emmanuel, a musician with the Jazz legend Grant Green, he was musically educated and did like many did, played Hip Hop on his off time. Making the jump to New York City at the age of 19 in 1994, Riggins gigged with Betty Carter’s band Jazz Ahead. His talents soon blossomed and in a short time his reputation grew as an amazing performer. His skill on the drums would lead him to play behind some of the most well knowm Jazz musicians around. Players like Hank Jones, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Donald Byrd, Cedar Walton, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell, Benny Green, Ron Carter, Diana Krall, and Gary Bartz among others enlisted him to play with them. He’s also consulted and had percussion credits for the likes of Kanye West, Gilles Peterson, Tribe, and Paul McCartney to name a few. Along with these accolades, Karriem Riggins has also planted himself firmly as a Hip Hop producer, producing tracks for notables such as Common, Erykah Badu, Slum Village, Talib Kweli, Madlib, and finishing up J. Dilla’s record The Shining. His first record, Music Kaleidoscope introduced him as a Hip Hop producer combined with a Jazz performer’s perspective, and this past October he released Alone Together, his debut record for Stones Throw. This 34 track odyssey is his journey on how he got to where he is today, his influences (musically and in life), and was created partially while he was on tour throughout the world. It’s exactly what you think it would be, and more.

“ I had a project named Alone Together and it was a whole other batch of beats, but it was called Alone Together. I just started taking certain beats off of it and it started forming into what it is now. Initially I was going to rhyme on a few of the songs, but I decided to just keep it instrumental. Instrumentals are powerful. There’s so much you can get from the music. ”

This intersection of Hip Hop and Jazz of course isn’t new, but to me Riggins on the next level. We’ve had the Jazzmatazz series, The Heavy Rhyme Experience, and bands like The Roots who blend a Jazz style (along with many more) that crossed the two genres, but when have you had a true Jazz drummer producing Hip Hop on the side? ?uestlove has been playing and producing, but Riggins is different. He is true Jazz through and through. This next level is a Jazz drummer taking his influences in Jazz and combining it with the best Hip Hop artists of our time he’s worked with to come up with a beautifully crafted opus. This combination of the two is exactly the sort of injection Hip Hop needs right now. Crafted like a Dilla short beat tape, infused with chopped, heavy beats, samples, synth sounds and much percussion, Alone Together is more than just thirty four Hip Hop tracks. It’s Karriem Riggins, alone and above the clouds, doing his own thing, and one thing is for sure, he’s going to be doing it for a long, long time.

Karriem Riggins – Round the Outside

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More info on his website.

Keep Diggin’!

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